Thinking My Way Through Anglican Difficulties

Before I could find my way to the Tiber to cross through its waters to the Eternal City of Rome, in whose embrace I found the land of milk and honey, I paused for a bit at the Thames. I discovered the existence of liturgy and sacraments in the Anglican tradition, and I thought for a while that coming home to Canterbury might be an option a little bit less extreme in the eyes of my fundamentalist family than going off to consort with what I was taught as a child was the Whore of Babylon.

I grew very fond of the Anglican patrimony: the Prayer Book and the Anglican Missal, the Hymnal, chanting the psalms, cathedrals and boys’ choirs, the poetry of John Donne. I knew there to be Anglicans who considered themselves to be Catholics, even more so than the Romans. Could a life within Anglicanism be a way for me to live as both a Christian and a Catholic, combining the faith of my childhood with my growing love for the ancient and the traditional?

But the Anglican patrimony was not the only thing that attracted me. For the Baptist, there was just Scripture. For the Catholic, there was Scripture and Tradition. But the Anglicans like to include Reason in their trinity of sources of faith. With that typically English (and semi-Pelagian, I would come to realize later) enthusiasm for the capacity of man to know, I thought that, even if the use of Reason could sometimes cause divisions and discrepancies that were hard to square with a drive for unity, surely religion was meant to be in dialogue with Reason, not only my own but others’ as well. Anglicanism was the religion of personal freedom lived within the context of the historical Church, I came to think.

Then something happened which shattered my simplistic view of Anglicanism a potential spiritual home. I read the Articles of Religion, and my eyes rested on these words: Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture. I had come to believe that Jesus had meant what he said when he took bread and wine and said, “This is My Body; This is My Blood. Unless you eat My Flesh and drink My Blood you have no life in you.” The Real Presence of Christ was made manifest to me first of all through the reading of the Scriptures. The fact that my Bible-believing Church rejected that same Real Presence meant that I had to journey out of the Baptist faith of my childhood and find where this Real Presence could be enjoyed.

I knew that there were many Anglicans who believed in the Real Presence and, even if they were loath to use the T word, they believed in it with the same faith that the Fathers of the Council of Trent believed in it. But I also knew that there many Anglicans who had other opinions. Was this just another example of how Anglicanism’s use of Reason produced a variety of different interpretations that could live side by side together in harmony? Surely I could live as those quirky Anglo-Catholic priests did, who wore 39 buttons on their cassocks for each of those Articles they rejected, right?

But there Article 28 was, right in the Prayer Book. I shut the Prayer Book right then and there, and said to myself, “If I am going to be a Catholic, I am going to be a real Catholic. I am not going to do this half-way.” That very reaction is guaranteed to offend every Anglican who has ever struggled with converting to Rome, who has seen himself always as a Catholic even as he remained within the Church of England. But that is what I felt at the time.

Why such a reaction? How could I sacrifice Reason for the obscurantist obedience and dogma obsessed Roman Communion as simple as that? And why, when I actually professed the Creed in my local Catholic parish church and received for the first time the Body and Blood of Christ, did I not gaze longingly at the Anglican patrimony on which I had turned my back?

Article 28 raised for me a question: By whose authority is Article 28 something that I should even care about?

The Anglican patrimony has two aspects to it: there is a culture associated with it, in its art, history, music, and spirituality; and there is also a mindset, a way of thinking about being Church. In both its culture and mindset there is wide latitude, but sometimes to such a degree as to include mutually exclusive points of view as equally true.

The Anglo-Catholic, and especially Anglo-Papalist variant, tries to mix the culture and mindset of the Anglican patrimony with the culture and mindset of the Roman Church in whose shadow he lives, moves, breathes and has his being. He always has an eye on Rome, even as he is never quite sure what to do with what he sees there. The Anglo-Catholic finds himself in the ambiguous situation of being in communion with a Church of England which has severed ties with Rome and at the same time feeling that the fact of his non-communion of Rome is a lack which has to be remedied in some way.

But how is that lack to be remedied? Reason, that Anglican font of blessing, comes to supply the answer. Some reason that the Anglo-Catholic phenomenon is a way of paving the way for an eventual meeting of the minds between Rome and Canterbury. There is evidence that Anglo-Catholics have caused their Church to restore much of what was lost after Henry VIII: a greater appreciation of the sacraments and Eucharistic worship, the dignity of the office of bishop. Others reason that we having a more broad minded conception of what it means to be Catholic and Church will resolve our difficulties.

Yet what happens when I, from my vantage point within the Anglican Church, claim to be a part of the Catholic Church when the body which calls itself the Catholic Church says that I am not, and the body which calls itself the Anglican Communion says that I am not in communion with the body which calls itself the Catholic Church? What happens then when I say, because I believe it, every Sunday, I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church?

Article 28 not only raises the question: By whose authority is Article 28 something that I should even care about? but also, To whom am I bound as an authority and what are the limits of that authority, and my obedience to it? Anglicans have generally preferred to live with the sometimes uncomfortable vicissitudes brought about by our reasoning on the questions of faith rather than invoke authority. At its root, this preference is inherently Protestant. It doubts the capacity of any human authority to really be able to exercise divine authority, and it can point to innumerable instances where humans claiming to exercise such a divine authority have been frauds and caused great damage to the Church and humanity at large.

This is why many Anglo-Catholics have reveled in their own disobedience to their bishops over matters of faith and liturgy, and why attempts by their bishops to rein them in have been largely unsuccessful. But the same applies to disobedience by other types of Anglicans and attempts by Anglican hierarchy to address such disobedience. It has been commented before that many Anglo-Catholics are practical Congregationalists for all of their Catholic theology.

Each Anglo-Catholic believer, each priest, each parish, each institution incarnates in a very different way what it means to be Catholic and Church, where authority is and what deference should be paid to it. This radically individualistic, Atomistic notion of the Catholic Church is not the exclusive domain of Anglo-Catholics; it is a characteristic of our age. Such an Atomistic Catholic, as I will call him (and he exists in the Roman Church as well), holds on to as much of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, to as much of patrimony and culture of any kind, as he wishes.

But Atomistic Catholics, even as they preserve in themselves to a greater or lesser degree Scripture, Tradition, Reason, patrimony, culture, Catholic and Church, cannot live in communion with others. Atomistic Catholics are to be found not only in the Anglican Church, but in the Roman Church, in fact analogues exist in every world religion and political system.

The Catholic Church, however, whose Magisterium has never condemned Atomism as a heresy, nonetheless by her divine constitution can never admit Atomism as a hermeneutic, as a way of thinking or living. The Church’s founder, Jesus Christ, chose for reasons known to Him alone, weak and sinful human beings to exercise His own divine authority: to teach, govern and sanctify in His Name until He comes back in glory. The Atomist can assent to this truth as a logical corollary to the Incarnation, but he is always looking for a way to reject authority in the name of a higher authority. And that Atomism has taken various forms, from the Donatist heretics who rejected the validity of the sacraments celebrated by clergy whose lives were not in accord with the Gospel, to women ordained on boats in the Danube who reject the authority of an all-male hierarchy in favor of an authority which comes from themselves even as they claim it comes from God.

The women who have themselves ordained outside of the confines of the authority of the Catholic Church on grounds that a higher authority, namely themselves, allows it, have made a public stand that ordination is not subordination. Reason tells them subordination is a grave sin against their individual freedom, which they take as the most important virtue.

The Catholic Church responds, that ordination is all about subordination. It is about subordinating the good of individual human freedom, legitimate autonomy and personal authority to the common good of the communion of the Church, where freedom is not the most important virtue, but the pre-requisite for us to submit in obedience to the Truth of the Gospel revealed in every age in the same way through that same communion.

A hermeneutic of Atomism, then, rejects the notion that any authority can pronounce invalid anyone else’s ordination. If ordination comes from my free response to my own authority, then how can anyone outside of myself dare to question its validity? This is a sticking point with many Atomistic Catholics in and outside the Anglican Communion who are still puzzled over the continued acceptance by Rome of Leo XIII’s recognition of Anglican orders as absolutely null and utterly void. By extension, Atomists of every kind would see in the Catholic Church’s declaration nothing more than mean stupidity.

We see here the difference between how the hermeneutic of Atomism views reality and the way the Church exercises authority. The Catholic Church says that Holy Orders is a sacrament, and by that she means, a outward sign of inward grace, instituted by Christ, which produces the grace that it signifies. The 25th Article of Religion says that Holy Orders, along with four other rites the Catholic Church recognizes as sacraments, is not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles.

It is common to say that the Catholic Church denies the validity of Anglican orders, which some take as a rejection of Anglican ministers’ work and love for the Gospel and for Christ. In reality, the Catholic Church says that Orders is a sacrament. The Anglican Church says that Orders is not a sacrament the way that Catholics define sacrament. The Catholic Church says that Anglican Orders is not a sacrament the way that Catholics define sacrament. The Church’s authority in the reviled Apostolicae curae recognizes that the Catholic and Anglican churches say exactly the same thing about Anglican orders: they are not a sacrament they way the Catholic Church defines a sacrament.

Seen in that light, it becomes clear that the authority of the Catholic Church is not used as a weapon to maltreat Anglicans. Such an authority is used, however, to state the reality of what is: Anglicans and Catholics do not mean the same thing when they speak of the sacraments and Holy Orders. The Atomistic Catholic, however, having changed by his own authority the meaning of Orders, of sacrament, of a whole host of things, then attacks the Catholic Church for being at variance with his own authority. Wherever Atomism exists, it reduces, relativizes and individualizes authority, and rejects any other kind of authority outside of the self, legitimate or not.

The way forward for Anglo-Catholics, and all men and women of good will, who seek to preserve their patrimony and culture, to be faithful to Scripture, Tradition and Reason, is not to debate the relative merits of Apostolicae curae and the Thirty-Nine Articles. It is not to cling bravely hope against hope to a Communion which has always and will continue to marginalize them. It is not even to come into full communion with Rome while keeping an eye on the Church of England whose shadow they are trying not to escape, while reserving the right to keep some authority for their own vision.

The way forward for Anglo-Catholics is to convert away from anything resembling Atomism in their thoughts, words and deeds. It is to realize that their ordination, whether to Orders as ministers of Gospel and Sacrament or to baptism as disciples of the LORD Jesus, is subordination: subordinating the freedom they have to enjoy their patrimony, and culture in their own way to a Truth which is lived in the authority of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church which subsists in the See of Rome, not for any merit of her own, but as the greatest gift God has given man to escape being unrelated atoms so as to be built into the very Body of Christ.

Father Christopher Smith is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina and a student at the University of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain, where he is pursuing a doctoral degree in dogmatic theology.

17 Replies to “Thinking My Way Through Anglican Difficulties”

  1. I agree with Father Smith's analysis and offer one additional consideration:

    Scripture and Tradition are both supernatural gifts from God to man. Reason, on the other hand, is not supernatural; it is the natural faculty of intellect which, like everything else in our human nature, is weakened by the Fall.

    The missing leg of the stool is not reason, it another supernatural gift from God to man: the magisterium of the Church. The living teaching authority of Christ exercised by the Apostles and those who take their place, the bishops, is the mechanism by which Scripture and Tradition are transmitted from generation to generation without corruption. Once all three parts of this triad are understood to be supernatural gifts that are essentially connected to each other by grace, then we find the proper place of human reason in accepting and understanding the supernatural gifts of Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium.

    The intellect and will surrender in the obedience of faith to the Gospel, and then reason, working to the limits of its ability and in keeping with ratio recta, seeks to understand what is already accepted by faith. Seen in this light, we can say that by substituting reason for magisterium, the Anglican mind has already made the discipline of sacred theology almost impossible and substituted for it what we might call religious studies.

    For a fuller exploration of this question, see the Domgatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, of the Second Vatican Council.

  2. As an Anglo-Catholic who has followed this blog with great interest, I don't agree with Fr. Smith's analysis and am sorry to find this sort of post on Chant Café. Can't agree with his assumptions, conclusion, nor his assessment of the authority of the Articles of Religion. Of course, he's free to write what he wishes, and the blog owners are free to post it, but I wouldn't expect to find this topic discussed here. Personal problem of mine, I realize. Just thought I'd point out that there's at least one person out here not nodding in agreement.

  3. Remember the post is called "Thinking My Way Through Anglican Difficulties." Both Roman and Anglo Catholics are thinking their way through them, and this article is merely my thinking through them. yet it is important that the discussion raised by interventions of this type goes one, because those Anglicans who will take advantage of the Holy Father's ordinariate proposal and the Catholic Church: we have to make sure we are talking about the same thing when we talk about a lot of things! If this article stimulates greater thought (even by way of disagreement) then that still helps us all to clarify

  4. Excellent clarity of thought and writing. I'd suggest, though, that it is imprudent to ascribe to all Anglo-Catholics the feelings and thought patterns you experienced yourself when you were an Anglo-Catholic. Projection is a special form of egotism that masquerades as insight. (I recognize it here because I'm so often guilty of it myself).

    I would further suggest that your rejection of Anglicanism on the grounds of single line of doctrine, despite your love of the culture and patrimony of Anglicanism, mirrors the experience of many former Roman Catholics who have left their beloved tradition and venerable culture because they could no longer bear to live as heretics in a church they felt had no place for their beliefs. Perhaps I'm projecting, but I think the Anglican Communion, and the Anglo-Catholic subset, is full of those sorts.

  5. Adam,

    I'm not sure that the author is rejecting "Anglicanism on the grounds of single line of doctrine". Rather, he's recounting how Article 28 brought him to consider the wider issue of authority that has always been a difficulty for Anglicans who believe themselves to be in the Catholic tradition.

  6. ps for what it's worth, I speak as a convert who's on good terms with his Anglican friends (as you might have realised from our other conversation).

  7. IanW:

    Righto. Similarly, some RCs might find that a point or two of contention causes them to consider the wider issues of authority and (ultimately) membership in a institution that (unlike the Anglican Communion) demands a certain level of obedience and fidelity.

    My deep love of the Roman Catholic Church, and her traditions, (despite my publicly acknowledged problems with the same), my respect for my Catholic friends here in this online community (the Cafe and the Forums), and my preference for talking about liturgical praxis rather than ecclesiology, have kept me from publicly airing my own struggle with these issues. I will say, though, that the often seen Anglican-turned-Catholic viewpoint that suggests a certain inevitability of conversion (all Anglicans wish they could be Catholic, and one day they will be) ignores the simple truth that the Tiber (so to speak) flows both ways. Many Catholic-exiles have found a home in the Anglican Communion, which (despite its very real problems) seems to speak the words of the New Collosus:
    "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

    I am deeply appreciative of thoughtful men and women, like Fr. Smith in this case, who are able to speak to these struggles with clarity. I just wanted to add to his commentary that there is another side of things; that there are those in the Anglo-Catholic world who are nothing other than glad about their disaffiliation with Rome. There are also some (do I include myself?) whose hearts are broken, even as they are lifted up, by a Church which rejects that which they know to be true, a Church which has no place for them.

  8. Adam,

    You're right – the swim-lane isn't a one-way system. That doesn't obviate the author's point, though, that things can be difficult for a Catholic-minded Anglican. Even before the recent problems there was an inconsistency between the branch theory – that the Anglican Comunion is another part of the Catholic Church, just like the Romans and the various kinds of Orthodox – and the Communion in practise. Now the differences are more pronounced it's even more difficult. Which is not to criticise the Communion: it is, perhaps, at last being true to itself, and as such will make a comfortable home for those who are happy with a Protestant approach to authority, leavened by the glories of the Communion's cultural patrimony.

    It's difficult for me to say more here because of my English context, in which the cultural aspects of the CoE further complicate the issue (that Church in the picture is just down the road!).

  9. Yes, of course- the author's point certainly holds within his context. And I can't blame a convert to Catholicism thinking that all roads lead to Rome- for them they certainly do.

    The problems in the Anglican Communion are especially pronounced here in the US. Our special brand of Anglicanism is a mystery even to its practitioners (cf. my current open quesitno at the Forum), and the American conception of authority, along with our very short view of tradition (the country's only existed for 234 years) complicate matters a great deal.

    This:
    a comfortable home for those who are happy with a Protestant approach to authority, leavened by the glories of the Communion's cultural patrimony.
    is very true in my neck of the woods, with the caveat that (very unfortunately) the average ECUSA parish has little access to that cultural patrimony, and less interest in pursuing it.

    But, as the same is true (more so!) in the average American RC parish, the liturgical losses of conversion are minimal, unless you really like Guitars (some of us do).

  10. "There are also some (do I include myself?) whose hearts are broken, even as they are lifted up, by a Church which rejects that which they know to be true, a Church which has no place for them."

    This is unclear to me – are these issues matters of doctrine (like the Real Presence) or of praxis (e.g. celibate priesthood)? If the former, a consistent belief in the Church would seem to require that one accepts what the Church authoritatively teaches. I do not see how one can truly believe in the Church and at the same time hold that it teaches error. In the final analysis a Catholic does not believe what the Church teaches because this teaching agrees with what he holds already (or is something he would believe without the authority of the Church), but precisely on account of this authority as guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.

    I am not asking for any personal confession here, just a matter of clarification.

  11. I'll illustrate my point with a sad parallel story of a (former) dear friend of mine.
    My friend grew up Fundamentalist Evangelical Protestant. Creationism, biblical literalism, Catholics are going to hell- the whole bit.
    In college, she fell in love with another woman. Unable to reconcile her childhood beliefs with this experience, she eventually abandoned all notion of Christianity and became an atheistic libertine.

    My own situation is not so grave: my faith in God's love and in the saving power of Jesus' death and resurrection has and (I pray) will always remain steadfast. And, in theory, I accept the conception you stated regarding acceptance of Church teaching based on the authority of the Church, not on our understanding of the teachings themselves.

    But when one finds oneself completely unable to accept a point of doctrine (frequent readers of my posts will know which one, I'd rather not go into it here as that would derail the point and lead into a discussion about the doctrine itself rather than principles), it becomes difficult to accept the authority of the Church. Something like, "I am convinced they are in error here- how can I be sure they are not in error elsewhere?"

    I've taken to describing myself as "Otherwise orthodox," but one wonders at what point "otherwise" is the more important word there. Especially since my liberal Catholic friends, who happily flaunt their heresies and disdain for liturgical orthopraxis, seem to me to be lying to themselves about their identity. Real Anglican seems better than fake Catholic, no?

  12. Father Smith, congratulations on your lucid commentary. I'm so glad you crossed the Tiber. We need more priests like you. Best, Tom

  13. Adam,

    Thanks for your reply. "Real Anglican seems better than fake Catholic, no?" I admire your candor.

    At the same time, may I suggest that "changing churches" will not solve your dilemma? If you are truly convinced the Catholic Church is in error in what it teaches authoritatively – even on a single point – there is no real reason why she may not be in error on any other point.

    In other words, any church, if it is not simply a free-for-all, claims some authority and binds its members in some sort of definite confession. If the content of this confession is up to each individual member, then I think you would agree that the whole concept of a church becomes, in the final analysis, superfluous.

  14. Which is why I find the Unitarians to be a wholly pointless institution. And why I'm still Roman Catholic (at the moment, anyway).

    Your point is completely valid.

    I am quite loathe to use "personal experience" as my primary source of authority. The modernistic notion that one can, by oneself, reason one's way to truth, is complete insanity to me.
    But…
    Apart from the "otherwise" issue, my acceptance of Catholic teaching has been as much due to my own experience as to my obedience to the Church. I know, first hand, directly, as sure as I can know anything at all, that Christ is fully present in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. I have seen, felt, and experienced the supernatural efficacy of the Sacraments- particularly the Sacraments of Initiation. I know I have been made whole in the confessional.

    Because of those touchpoints of doctrinal confirmation, and because of the undeniable apostolicity of the Roman Church, I'm willing to accept a great deal of things on faith and obedience. Things I don't understand, things my reason tell me are suspicious or even wrong, things that seem random or superfluous at first blush- all these things I'm willing to submit to based on the authority and venerable tradition of the Church.

    And yet…
    One point. About which I am completely sure. Divine Revelation sure.
    The "options" at this point become:
    1. Do nothing. Keep the faith. Accept the pain of the discordance as a cross to bear. Trust in the Holy Spirit's power to eventually correct the error in God's Good Time.
    2. Stay Catholic. Flaunt my heresy. Delude myself into thinking that adding dancers to a Mass is an effective way to "work for change."
    3. Realize that no Divine Revelation to me could be true if it is against Catholic Doctrine, conclude then that I have been possessed of a demon, seek Exorcism.
    4. Find a church that believes in what I know to be true.

    I'm sure some of the faithful would vote for #3. But I don't see that as being viable. #2, which seems to be a very popular choice, is little more than an exercise in futility and narcissism, the underlying assumption being "the Holy Spirit really needs my help on this point. What's that, Holy Spirit? You want me to make Paper Mache Puppets? Okay!"

    #1 has been my modus operandi thus far. The conception thereof has been a motivating force behind my love of and championing of liturgical orthopraxis and encouragement of all the orthodoxy not included in "otherwise." That is, I believe in the efficacy of those things- greater use of them will bring us all to greater experience and understanding of the truth. Therefore, If what I believe really is true- then a wider use of authentic practices and a wider acceptance of authentic authority will aide the Holy Spirit in bringing out the truth. (And I'mmore than willing, on this point, to say: IF indeed I am wrong, then liturgical orthopraxis is the best way to correct my own errors).

    But…
    #1 does not affect only me. It affects my wife as well, and she has long since come to the conclusion that #4 is the only way to go. It affect my (future) children, who would grow up in a tradition that would either convince them of something I believe untrue or ultimately break their hearts as it has broken mine- and I don't think I could live with subjecting my children to that.

    So, while far from a perfect solution, what choice but #4 would I have?

  15. Thanks again for your response, and again I appreciate your candor.

    I do not know what issue is at stake, nor do I need to know, but I'm still confused since there seems to be a direct contradiction between your acceptance of "my" point (which, I hope, is simply a reflection of the Church's understanding) and what you subsequently explain. Faith is fundamentally a gift from God – it is not the product of our experience, although God *may* (but does not necessarily) confirm our faith by granting us positive experiences.

    You say, "I know, first hand, directly, as sure as I can know anything at all, that Christ is fully present in the Eucharistic Sacrifice." I don't understand how anyone could "know" this "directly" since on this side of the grave we walk by faith, and not by sight. Not even the Blessed Virgin Mary "knew" this – she believed it, which means to take something on the authority of another, in this case, God himself. But God has revealed himself through his Son, and his Son's Body on earth, the Church (this at least is the ordinary means). I realize that by "know" you do not mean the result of an intellectual argument, but more akin to "knowing" the love of another or that this person is trustworthy. Yet while these may be spiritual realities, they are not supernatural realities, the assurance of which can only come through faith.

    It seems to me that #1 is the only viable option – #4 seems equivalent to the solipsism you so rightly "loathe." I don't understand #3 – what does "a Divine Revelation to me" mean?

    I would refer you to the words of an Instruction to Theologians put out by the Vatican, which, though it pertains to professional theologians, may have some relevance to your position. It states: "It can also happen that at the conclusion of a serious study, undertaken with the desire to heed the Magisterium's teaching without hesitation, the theologian's difficulty remains because the arguments to the contrary seem more persuasive to him. Faced with a proposition to which he feels he cannot give his intellectual assent, the theologian nevertheless has the duty to remain open to a deeper examination of the question.

    For a loyal spirit, animated by love for the Church, such a situation can certainly prove a difficult trial. It can be a call to suffer for the truth, in silence and prayer, but with the certainty, that if the truth really is at stake, it will ultimately prevail."

    Finally, you state, quite beautifully, that "my acceptance of Catholic teaching has been as much due to my own experience as to my obedience to the Church." The question seems to be: what if that experience now goes away, is called into question, seems to be negated? Or, in your case, what if this experience goes against what the faith says is true? Do we still hold on to faith without the reassurance?

    If you read the lives of the saints you'll find that many had just this kind of experience: they went through a "dark night" in which their experience "tells" them that heaven does not exist, God does not care for them, everything they sacrificed and worked for is in vain, and they are going to hell when they die. St. Therese of Lisieux felt this way on her deathbed. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for the last 50 years of her life, felt abandoned by God, never once experiencing that God loved her or that what she was doing was what God wanted her to do. She lived purely by faith.

    Far be it from me to diagnose the state of your soul; I just wanted to suggest that your experience is not unique, and that the saints clung to faith even when it seemed contradictory to their own experience.

    God be with you on your journey.

  16. Thank you so much for your continued thoughtful and loving dialogue on these points. You've given me a great deal to think on. I'm not sure I have much more to say cogently on this subject at this time, but perhaps we can pursue these matters, and general friendship outside the Cafe.

    You can email me: adam.michael.wood@gmail.com
    (anyone else can email me there, too, by the way- I'm not a privacy freak)

    You can also find me on FB:
    http://www.facebook.com/wood.adam.michael

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